Colonial Era Exploitation Should Be Avoided: Dr. Aye Maung

Sittwe: Dr. Aye Maung, Chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, says the Burmese government should avoid colonial-style exploitation of natural resources, referring to its lack of a plan to utilize any portion of the gas from the Shwe Gas Project in Kyaukpru in Arakan State for regional development.

He made the statement when he was asked about his party’s public conference that is scheduled to be held on 1 January, 2012, at the clock-tower grounds in Kyaukpru to demand local rights in the project.

“Our dreams for unity and amity in our nation will be far away if the natural resources from one region are swept away and just used for the benefit and development of another region in the similar manner of exploitation as in the colonial era. So, the government should share some portion of profits that will be obtained from the gas project in Arakan State for the benefit and development of local Arakanese people, who have rights to the natural resources in their homeland, and while it is building a genuine union, it should ensure equal benefit and development in all ethnic regions in the union,” said Dr. Aye Maung.

He added that the natural resources are most abundant in ethnic regions and the hope for ethnic unity will be shattered if the government continues to sweep away the resources from those regions to use in only Rangoon, Mandalay, Naypyidaw, and other parts of central Burma where industrial zones are being established.

Dr. Aye Maung said the main aim of holding the public conference is to mobilize the local Arakanese people as well as their brethren of other ethnic nationalities for their wider participation in making demands on the gas project for the development of Arakan State.

“We will make demands just for what we should get from our union and we hope all Arakanese people and our ethnic brothers with their kind hearts will support our move to strive for our regional development and hope the responsible authorities in all levels will do their best to meet our demands,” he said.

He also said his party would be able to make known to the central government what local people are expecting from the Shwe Gas Project after holding public conferences in the region, although lawmakers from his party had not received any positive answers from the union ministers when they raised questions about the project last September, with the aim of softening the stance of the central government over the region’s natural resources.

“No matter how the regional natural resources are being centralized in the 2008 constitution, we hope the government will consider the fact that every region or division needs to use its own resources for its development,” he said.

The regional election commission granted permission on 27 December for the RNDP to hold the public conference, which is scheduled from 5 pm to 11 pm on 1 January at the clock-tower grounds in Kyaukpru. It was learned that only 500 people are allowed to take part in the conference, and six senior leaders of the party, including Dr. Aye Maung and U Ba Shin, the legislator from People’s Parliament in Kyaukpru, will speak at the conference.